Call me crazy, but after Saturday’s Grade 1 Alabama, I’m far more excited for the Kentucky Oaks than the Kentucky Derby. Swiss Skydiver, of course, put on a show, winning by daylight while under wraps late. Up next for her is a date with Acorn and Test winner Gamine, who will be stretching back out to two turns.
This is no slight to Tiz the Law, who may be preparing for a dazzling display of his own in the Run for the Roses on the first Saturday in September (still feels weird to say that). However, give me Swiss Skydiver and Gamine looking one another in the eye with the lilies on the line, and I’ll be pretty darned happy.
SATURDAY’S RESULTS: I was alive to an OK Pick Four will-pay with Brazen in the fifth, but he stopped badly to finish well behind Fevola. I dropped $25.
SUNDAY’S PLAY: I’m intrigued by the late Pick Five, and I think room exists to hit it with a budget-friendly ticket. My 50-cent play starts in the sixth and reads as follows: 2,4,6 with 6 with 2,4,5,6,11 with 3,6 with 2,4. I’ll also play $2 late doubles keying my horses in the last two legs, as I think Bill Mott saddles a pair of live horses at overlaid odds in the Saratoga Oaks.
TOTAL WAGERED: $38.
Best Bet: Skye Snow, Race 4
Longshot: Antoinette, Race 9
School of Thought
#3 CANTATA: Hammered for nearly one million dollars at Keeneland last year and is bred to be a very strong horse. She’s worked like one for Steve Asmussen, too, and the gate work over this surface in late-July jumps off the page; #1 SCHOOL OF THOUGHT: Has worked consistently for Chad Brown and may well go off favored in this spot. She’s bred to be very good, but the pedigree screams she’ll get better as she gets older, not necessarily that she’ll want to sprint; #4 STONE TOWN: Is the lone runner in here with any experience. She was an OK second here earlier in the meet, and while she’s hurt by that day’s winner disappointing in her next start, this one could step forward.
MAKER ENTRY: Either half could win. #1 CHOCOLATE BAR drops back in for a tag and a repeat of his two-back effort at Churchill would put him right there, while #1A LOKOYA ROAD makes his first start for Maker and gets some class relief after two starts against special weight foes; #10 BOLD GEM: Has had many chances, but his turf record looks much better if you toss the two-back effort at Gulfstream. Do that, and you have a runner that has been competitive many times at this level, one that shouldn’t be ignored at a price; KLARAVICH ENTRY: #2 COMPLEX SYSTEM drops in class for this one and may be favored, but I have my doubts. These are aggressive connections, sure, but the Monmouth works are a red flag, as that’s where Chad Brown tends to keep his second-stringers.
Pick Up the Fone
Our Lady of Loreto
#5 LADY C: Was a good second against slightly better earlier in the meet despite some trouble out of the gate. Unlike many others in here, she can win while rating off the pace, and that seems like a big asset in a race full of early speed; #2 PICK UP THE FONE: Has run well in both starts for Todd Pletcher following a trainer switch earlier this year. She has tactical speed, but her last-out effort showed she doesn’t necessarily need the lead in order to run well; #6 OUR LADY OF LORETO: Hits me as the speed of the speed and could benefit from a cushy outside draw. I don’t think she’ll be alone on the lead, but if any horse in this field can shake loose going into the turn, it’s probably this filly.
Make Or Break
#6 SKYE SNOW: Runs for a tag for the first time and should appreciate the significant drop in class. Her two-back maiden win at Gulfstream was strong, and she should be able to come rolling late beneath Irad Ortiz, Jr.; #1 MAKE OR BREAK: Seemed to take to turf reasonably well when third against similar foes earlier in the meet. That was her first start since March, and improvement seems logical second off the bench; #5 TRADEABLE: Was second in the race my second selection exits. She can’t be ignored if you’re playing vertical exotics, but she hasn’t won since 2018 and has had enough chances at this level to where I can’t endorse her on top.
He’s No Lemon
#6 NAKAMURA: Came back running when third behind Zulu Alpha in the Grade 2 Elkhorn at Keeneland. He won at this route a season ago and has shown he’s not quite as pace-dependent as several of his rivals in this spot; #1 PILLAR MOUNTAIN: Stretches out in distance second off the layoff and should improve with the added distance. His two North American wins have come at this distance, and one of them came at this route last July; #4 HE’S NO LEMON: May have bounced in the Elkhorn after running a close-up third in the Grade 3 Louisville at Churchill. That’s the only clunker he’s run since December of 2018, so it’s not hard for me to draw a line through that effort.
Lost in Rome
#6 MARKET IMPACT: Hasn’t run in a year but is working well for Jorge Abreu ahead of his return. This is a big drop in class off the bench, and any sort of step forward from his lone start to date would make him a formidable foe; #2 LOST IN ROME: Hasn’t done much wrong to this point with four in-the-money finishes in five starts. New rider David Cohen will likely be hoping for a speed duel early, as this one figures to be running well late; #4 BREITHORN: Is another that would benefit from some action up front going into the turn. His race here last month was his first try at the level, and he did have an excuse, but that’s far from the only troubled trip he’s had to this point in his career.
#6 LA HARA: Likely needed his return to the races last month, but he still ran second and earned a 95 Beyer Speed Figure. A similar effort likely wallops this group, and if one materializes, tests against stakes company may be in his future; #9 DURESS: Has two wins and a second in three starts since being claimed by Tom Albertrani and goes second off the layoff here. Two turns is a question mark, but the presence of Smart Strike on the bottom of his pedigree may be a hint that such a journey won’t bother him; #8 LIFE ON TOP: Merits a look underneath at what will likely be a generous price. He cuts back to a mile after a one-paced effort going longer at Belmont, and he could have every chance to come running late for a piece of it.
#2 FIERCE LADY: Set a fast pace before settling for third money earlier this meet, and that was her first start in five months. That was also her first outing for trainer Rudy Rodriguez, and while this is a big field, she certainly seems like the speed of the speed and I think she’ll be a bit sharper; #6 BERTRANDA: Has hit the board in her last seven starts with two wins, including a last-out victory over several of foes in this spot last month. She could sit a strong stalking trip in this spot, and consistency is certainly not an issue for a mare that’s earned nearly $400,000 the hard way; #11 BIG Q: Has knocked heads with stakes foes since breaking her maiden here last summer, and while this race isn’t easy, there is some element of class relief here. John Velazquez rides back after piloting her to second-place finishes in two state-bred stakes races earlier this year.
#3 ANTOINETTE: Is a fun horse to root for and never seems to fire a bad shot. She returns to the grass after running third in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks on dirt, and her running style implies that the Saratoga Oaks distance will fit her like a glove; #6 RICETTA: Makes her first start on U.S. soil and gives trainer Bill Mott the second half of a powerful 1-2 punch. She was third in a Group 3 in just her third career start, and Javier Castellano takes the call; #1 SPEAKTOMEOFSUMMER: Is 3-for-3 going two turns on turf and most recently rallied to win the Grade 2 Lake Placid. There’s stuff to like here, but I’m taking the stance that this race just wasn’t that strong and that she’ll be a bit overbet.
Big Boy Mo
#2 YANKEE EMPIRE: Seems to have taken a step forward in his last two starts, the most recent of which was a win earlier this summer. This is his first start against winners, but he’s run up against talented horses in the past and it sure looks like he’s never been better; #4 RED ZINGER: Hasn’t run since December but has never finished worse than third at Saratoga. He’s worked steadily for Jeremiah Englehart, and if he’s ready to run off the bench, he’s capable of putting forth an effort that can win; #9 BIG BOY MO: Comes back into the claiming ranks after fading to sixth in a starter allowance last month. His lone prior try at this level saw him run third at Belmont, and if the Belmont form comes north, he’s got a shot at a big price.